Levi Dinkla is the President of Digital Doc based in Glenview, Illinois. Levi has worked for the parent organization Highland Ventures for 16 years in a variety of management roles. Previous to joining Digital Doc Levi was Vice President of iTV-3, a fiber optic telecommunications provider in Central Illinois specializing in telephone, cable TV, and Gigabit fiber optic Internet service where he worked to take the company from early stage growth to the largest fiber to the home telecommunications company in Central Illinois. Levi developed property and retail business for the Family Video brand throughout Kansas, Nebraska, and Western Missouri prior to his experience in telecommunications. Levi enjoys volunteering through several organizations and boards aimed at helping start up entrepreneurs including his involvement with Startup Peoria.
Tell us about the Digital Doc concept.
We currently do most of our business in repair and sales of phones, tablets and computers. However, we see that expanding into the internet side of things, connected home and the many other devices people are going to come to depend on in their everyday lives.
How and when did you become involved with Digital Doc?
I became involved about two years ago when I ran across the repair industry while listening to a local entrepreneur speak about his Smartphone Repair Business and felt it would be a good fit for Highland Ventures Ltd. Shortly thereafter Highland Ventures agreed that the repair industry provided a good business opportunity and looked at over 30 different companies as potential acquisitions across the US. We chose Digital Doc because of its emphasis on repairing everything, not just one manufacturer or one type of device. We felt fixing everything would allow us to continually adapt with technology and better position us to meet our customers’ needs, now and into the future. We also liked that they were a franchisor because we believed franchising would provide an opportunity to have a truly national brand. We own 700 retail strip centers across 23 states and we could open a Digital Doc in many of those centers, but to become a truly national brand, franchising was the best avenue. We purchased Digital Doc in February 2015, at which time I was asked to lead the team and help grow Digital Doc.
What was your background prior to joining Digital Doc?
I have been lucky enough to work for the same family owned business, Highland Ventures Ltd, for the past sixteen years. Highland does a great job of making everyone feel like they are part of the family and they have multiple companies which allows for you to grow professionally on several unique paths. I have been in telecommunications for the past six years running another of our companies, iTV-3. At iTV-3 I was part of a team that brought Gigabit Fiber Optic Internet to tens of thousands of homes and businesses throughout Central Illinois. Prior to that I helped develop retail properties for Highland Ventures in its Family Video brand, eventually building and opening over 30 properties throughout Kansas, Nebraska, and Western Missouri. Sixteen years ago I started out managing a video store in Northern Wisconsin and have been fortunate enough to grow from there.
What are some of the advantages in being a Digital Doc franchisee?
Franchising is about support, systems, and the quality of the team you are joining. We have excellent systems, a team dedicated to our franchisees success and a history of entrepreneurship which values the feedback of our franchisees. From our hands-on site selection and lease negotiation to our “store on a truck”, we are dedicated to ensuring the entire process from signing to opening is as fluid and easy as possible. Once open, our franchisees get free training for the life of the franchise, ongoing marketing support and access to certified pre-owned devices purchased by corporate and provided to franchisees, allowing them to carry more stock with much less risk. In addition, we have a first rate team, not only of corporate personnel, but also of franchisees with diverse backgrounds with whom we encourage the sharing of ideas. All of the corporate initiatives and resources are great, but ultimately I think being a part of and having access to our team of franchisees and corporate personnel is the best reason to own a Digital Doc.
Who is your ideal franchisee?
Our ideal franchisee is someone with an entrepreneurial spirit, great work ethic and a commitment to helping people. They are the type of leader that people want to follow but recognizes the value of being a part of a larger team. Our franchisees tend to have very strong communication skills. Technical capabilities is not a requirement, but an interest in technology is a definite plus.
Tell us a little about the your Industry.
We are pioneering a mix of multiple industries. The largest marketing opportunity we have is in certified pre-owned devices. It is an industry that does not exist yet. We found that once a customer is educated on the availability and viability of these devices, there is a ton of demand. Especially as Apps and software continue pushing technological advances. Consumers can enjoy the latest tech without the newest hardware and we are giving people access to the newest tech at a fraction of the cost. The repair industry is largely made up of phones, tablets and computers, we see that opportunity expanding beyond those devices because Digital Doc fixes everything. The much hyped “internet of things,” including connecting many of your home appliances and central management sources insures that there will be many devices in need of repair in the near future.
What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?
You have to be an open book to your system. It is not just owning your own business for a franchisee, they have a stake in the larger company.
Do not make something seem better than it is, just because.
The faster you are able to share information the faster you are able to tackle any issues at hand.
Do you have a mentor and is there someone you use for inspiration?
I have been lucky to have a few. Keith Hoogland, the owner of Highland Ventures Ltd has been a fantastic resource for my development and a true mentor. Inspiration comes from the people I work with and the customers we serve. We are providing a valuable service, first as a franchise system we offer a life changing opportunity and have attracted a world class team of franchisees. Second, seeing how much it means to our customers when we fix a phone and they are able to recover their family pictures, or we enable someone to afford their first iPhone, or save them from having to spend money on a new computer. Those interactions are so sincere, people are so happy when we can achieve that and it really makes you want to do more. I would be doing an injustice if I did not also mention my biggest supporters; my wife Natasha and two kids, Dallas and Anya.
What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
It comes down to hard work. Buying a franchise is not a guarantee for success. You have to have the passion, the work ethic and the vision for yourself and for your business. That is something a franchisor cannot bring to the table - the franchisee has to have that for themselves. If a franchisee has that drive, then it’s about people and asking yourself a few questions: “Am I excited about this business and the people I will be working with?” “Do I enjoy the people and the culture of the franchisor?” Finally, you have to be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. A franchisor can only support the struggles you share with them.
In your opinion, why do you think that Digital Doc would be a great opportunity for someone?
Business is about solving problems. You create a tremendous bond and trust with a customer when you can restore their broken device that holds their most precious memories and information or when you help get them into an upgrade they never thought they could afford. It is a very rewarding business to be in and as a business owner it is very satisfying. You want to have as little distractions as possible. You shouldn’t have to worry about hiring a marketing firm, a human resources team or a real estate department. We make it easier for our franchisees to grow their business through the impact that they are making on their customer’s lives.